Feds announce $5.2 million for WrapED gang prevention program

REACH Edmonton and a number of other local organizations are partnering to keep Edmonton youth out of gangs, after a five-year collaborative project received $5.2 million from the federal government. WrapED (Wrap=Wraparound, ED=Edmonton) is a collaboration between The Africa Centre, Edmonton John Howard Society, Edmonton Police Services, Native Counselling Services of Alberta, REACH Edmonton and YOUCAN Youth Services. WrapED partners and supporters gathered at the program's new office Jan. 17 when Hon. Rona Ambrose announced the funding on behalf of Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. The program will zero in on vulnerable, multi-barriered youth with a focus on up to 180 young people over five years, primarily from Aboriginal, immigrant and refugee communities. Kyle Dubé, Vice Chair of REACH Edmonton's Board of Directors, stressed that the youth who will be involved in the program are in high risk situations and are often the most difficult to reach. "Our job is to bring them back. Our job is to get them out of harm's way and let them know they matter," said Dubé. Because the funding is for five years, the partners have the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of participating youth. "Five years gives us an opportunity to really journey along with these young people and walk with them as they go through their ups and downs, not just for a year or six months," said Dubé. "To actually make an impact on their lives that will be forever." Minister Ambrose said WrapED is essential to keeping young people in Edmonton out of gangs. "I can't overstate how critical these types of projects are in helping youth steer clear of, and in some cases escape, violent lifestyles that are associated with criminal and gang activity," said Ambrose. "There will be a strong focus on fostering cultural identity," said Lindsay Daniller, Director of Community Initiatives and Development with REACH Edmonton. "That's actually core to this particular anti-gang initiative." Participants of the program will be between the ages of 12 and 17, with the program running until 2018. At the end of five years, measurable results from WrapED should include a reduction in youth gang criminal activity among participants, disengagement in gangs and increased cultural and community connections. Edmonton Police Services Deputy Chief Brian Simpson believes this approach will lead to a safer city for all Edmontonians. "Yes, there are gangs out there," said Simpson. "But their impact can be minimized by programs like this."